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In January this year Richard Frost took on the role of Shepherd Neame head brewer. This will be his first Hop Festival and he can’t wait…
Being a brewer is a great job: you get to make beer; taste beer; go to pubs and beer festivals; visit barley fields; and stroll through hop gardens – all in a day’s work. Of course it’s not without its headaches. While our technology and systems may be state-of-the-art, we’re operating on an historic site that as never designed to cope with rigors of 21st century brewing, let alone produce 68 million pints per year. But this is our home and we love it, so we cope with the challenges of brewing on the site and enjoy the heritage around us.
This spirit of camaraderie is typical of brewers, as a breed we work together and get things done. Since starting at Sheps, I’m quickly learning this is also the Kentish way and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Hop Festival.
That a committee consisting solely of volunteers can host an international festival which attracts 20,000 people over one weekend astonishes me. However, if anywhere can make this happen, it’s Faversham. It’s a town that has somehow – whether through its personalities, strength of will or sheer bloody-mindedness – managed to keep its identity and independence. How many other towns in the UK can boast that independent shops outnumber chain stores on their high street?
Since moving to the town, I’ve been warmly welcomed, whether as a bloke in the pub or as Shepherd Neame’s new head brewer. That latter role is one I perform with pride: making beer at Britain’s oldest brewer is a dream job for any brewer (or beer fan). It’s challenging and demanding work. I’m only part of a team of about 90 people who are dedicated to making sure you get a great pint every time. Whether it’s Master Brew, Spitfire or Bishops Finger throughout the year or Queen Court Harvest Ale brewed especially for the Hop Festival.
So, aside from the parade, the music and the celebrations, what I’m really looking forward to this weekend is sitting back with a great pint.
Richard Frost - Head Brewer